Mister Anvar Omorkanov, President of the Ice Hockey Federation
Mister Eldiyar Sheripov, Deputy Director of the State Agency on Environmental Protection and Forestry
Mister Arpachiev Kanatbek, Deputy Director of State Agency on Youth, Physical Culture and Sports under the Government of Kyrgyz Republic
Dear Hockey Players, Ladies, and Gentlemen!
Good afternoon to you all! I am so glad to be here and welcome you to this event on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme in the Kyrgyz Republic!
We are here today to open the first hockey tournament called “Snow Leopard Cup” and celebrate sports. As you all know, sports is good for health, it unites people of all backgrounds, and promotes peace. I am very happy to be here today, as I am also a citizen of an ice hockey-loving country, Sweden.
By making the snow leopard the symbol of these games, UNDP and the government would like to draw attention to how important it is to protect Kyrgyzstan’s ecosystems, not least in the regions that generate important water resources.
As you all know, the snow leopard has all the qualities for sport: Strength, agility, and ability to maneuver on ice! Fitting the image of a hockey player like no other animal!
UNDP is the UN’s main development organization. We help people and nations to build resilient lives. And we use the snow leopard – the image of Kyrgyzstan’s bio-cultural heritage – in education, art, culture, and sports to convey messages about preserving the unique biodiversity of our beloved Kyrgyzstan. As you all know, the survival of the snow leopard is threatened, because of climate change, human activity and related challenges in its natural habitat. And other species are threatened too, causing challenges for nature and for the people.
UNDP is working to help conserve globally important biodiversity, as well as land and forest resources of the Western Tian Shan mountain ecosystems by supporting more sustainable livelihoods for the people. This work is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and we work in close partnership with the State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry under the Government of Kyrgyz Republic, and other snow leopard and conservation partners, both state and non-state.
Protecting mountain ecosystems helps to preserve the snow leopard population by helping local communities manage forests and pastures without hurting the natural resources. We also help the government make better decisions about the environment in the Western Tien Shan mountains.
We also work on very similar issues in Kazakhstan, where we have the “Barys” hockey team protecting the snow leopard. We hope that in the near future, a game will be organized between our teams!
I would also like to express our gratitude to the Ice Hockey Federation for supporting the initiative on safeguarding the biodiversity and saving the snow leopard. We thank you for the choice of the snow leopard as a team symbol, and for establishing a special Cup of the Snow Leopard!
We really appreciate how the hockey players represent the pride of the Kyrgyzstan snow leopard in national and international championships. This year, the Kyrgyz children's hockey team won the European Golden Puck tournament in Prague. And grand tournaments are ahead: For the first time, Bishkek will host the world championship in ice hockey in March 2020 and the national team will take part in a qualifying tournament in Luxembourg. In April next year, the youth team will take part in the World Cup, also in Luxembourg.
We would like to wish good luck to our hockey players at the championships, where they will play under the slogan “Let's keep the snow leopards together!” I would like to present this mascot to the hockey federation so that the snow leopard supports you and helps you to succeed in the upcoming championships.
It is our hope that the Snow Leopard Cup tournaments will contribute to the environmental education of young people. By learning about preserving the snow leopard, the youth of Kyrgyzstan will learn to protect and manage the precious natural resources of this country.
In closing, on behalf of UNDP, I would like to thank the State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry, the Ice Hockey Federation, and all other partners for their cooperation. Together, we will reach our goals and help the snow leopard – and many other endangered species – survive and prosper, for the health of this planet and for the health of all people.
I end by wishing all participants good health, success and prosperity.